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How Long Should You Keep Your Tax Papers? Here’s What You Need To Know

Read this before you throw anything away.


Wondering when you can toss out your old receipts, 1099s, and other tax documents? It’s important to hold on to your tax documents as long as there is a chance that the IRS might decide to audit you. The IRS generally has three years to make that choice, but under certain circumstances, it can look back even further. Here are some guidelines to help you figure out how long to keep tax papers.

Keep for One Year

  • Pay stubs — you can shred them once you’ve received your W-2 and confirmed that it is accurate

Keep for Three Years

  • All supporting records for each year’s tax return
  • W-2, 1098, and 1099 forms
  • Charitable donation receipts, including any appraisals
  • Child care and education costs, including tuition, room and board, and fee information
  • Medical receipts
  • Contributions to tax-deferred retirement accounts (401(k), IRA)
  • Volunteer timecards and mileage documentation
  • Business expense receipts: office equipment and supplies, mileage, utility bills, advertising, meals
  • Receipts for tax-deductible home improvements such as energy-efficiency upgrades
  • Real estate tax and personal property tax documents

Keep for Seven Years

  • All supporting records for any claimed loss of worthless securities or bad-debt deduction

Keep Forever

  • Each year’s tax return

Keep this guide in mind as you do your taxes. Then, when you add each year’s tax records to your file going forward, review and shred your old records as necessary.

A version of this article appeared in our partner magazine, The Essential Tax Guide: 2023 Edition.

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